I continue to be impressed at the number of amazing female musicians, composers, songwriters and vocalists in this area. I never get tired of or take for granted the opportunity to meet, greet and become friends with so many talented women by being among them. This month’s case-in-point is classically-trained (She studied with Lila Brown and Sheila Browne) Asheville and Hendersonville Symphony and Brevard Philharmonic violist—and wildlife sociology advocate—Anastasia (An Yá) Yarbrough.
We met at a weekly jazz jam, going on six months ago, when she introduced herself to me upon the recommendation of a mutual friend. Because networking is the essential approach we take in order to keep ourselves working and sharing with the public what we love most, she and I shared a powwow conversation. At the end of it, she gave me what is fast becoming her trademark, mama-bear hugs.
I instantly found her to be direct, friendly, savvy and solid on her path in life and career. At that time I was booking and hosting the monthly Female Artist Spotlight Nights at The Block off Biltmore. Landing a slot at one of these showcases, she explained, would enable her to showcase her developing solo act, whereby she uses a looping device to record live on stage and in the moment, riffs and rhythms to engage and then play over, allowing her to sound like three or four instruments at once.
We settled on a performance date for the series. What happened that evening this past summer, was an experience none of us had ever seen before. Her command over the entire looping process proved she had been working diligently on effective and compelling arrangements of some of her favorite, mostly jazz, tunes. When she added her earthy, rich and soulful voice to varied tunes, it proved her prowess as a strong lead, improvisational singer.
Since then, and most recently, we shared the stage at my annual holiday variety show at Isis Music Hall where each year, I invite various players and singers to join me on stage for two sets of duets and solo pieces to what is notably a full house. I pick the tunes for each of the musical guests and one of the tunes I asked An Yá to play and sing was a Bill Withers tune, the classic “Lovely Day.” It was one of several pinnacle moments in the show and at the end of her delivery, she received an incredibly well deserved standing ovation.
Before this show, I asked her if I could send her some questions to be used in this feature, so that we could all get to know her a little bit better.
You were born and raised in Memphis TN. Tell us a bit about your upbringing.
Yes, I grew up with mom (who was a single parent), my younger brother, grandmother, and extended family